Dubrovnik: Pearl of the Adriatic

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We had a great three-night stay in Dubrovnik — the most beautiful of the Croatian cities we visited. Our soba here was in the heart of the old town, just a few blocks from the main square and literally a few feet from Dubrovnik’s famous walls. Our hosts were a very nice couple who gave us tips on the best beaches, as well as a few beach towels to boot.

Given that we’re a little behind on our blog, we thought we’d keep this post to a list of highlights and photos. However, don’t interpret our lack of words as a lack of enjoyment — we absolutely loved this city and can’t recommend it enough!

Dubrovnik highlights:

  • Walking the walls that surround the medieval old town. You get an amazing view of the entire city and surrounding water and islands.
  • Sitting outside at a cafe/bar called Buza and watching the sun set.
  • Swimming in the Adriatic.
  • Exploring the old streets with no real destination.

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Feeling the Korčula calm

See our gallery of photos tagged with “korcula”.

The island of Korčula is one of those places where you can’t help but take a deep breath of contentment every few minutes. It is beautiful, slow-paced, and wonderfully relaxed. Our two days there were spent slowly wandering the town’s stone-paved streets, sitting by the water, and eating some great pizza and ice cream. It was just a completely relaxing and soothing place to be.

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We took a bus to Korčula town from another town called Vela Luka (where our boat from Split docked), so we got to see a lot of the island’s inner landscape as well. It was full of these old stone walls and many, many beautiful vineyards. It was pretty amazing how this huge bus was able to navigate the very narrow and twisting country roads, but it didn’t seem to faze the driver at all.

One thing that fascinated both of us about Korčula was the very different weather patterns that we experienced on each of our two nights. When we arrived in Korčula on Sunday afternoon, wind was whipping through the small streets and up against the various beaches. Our soba host told us this was the mistral, or “natural air-conditioning” that passed through Korčula every now and then. That night, the west-facing side of the island was absolutely pummeled by wind. There were large waves in the water, flags were whipping around and it felt a bit like a storm was brewing. (Our video shows the mistral in action.) All of the outdoor restaurants are on the east-facing side of the island, so we walked over there and it was a completely different experience. You would never have known about the strong wind on the other side. And then the very next day, the winds never showed up. The afternoon and entire evening were as calm as could be. So interesting …

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Korčula

See our gallery of photos tagged with “korcula”.

We spent two very relaxed days in the town of Korčula on the island with the same name. This town is famous for being the birthplace of Marco Polo, but today it’s really just a tiny vacation town on the Adriatic. In the center of the town is the compact medieval walled city, with a central main street and a bunch of side streets that fanned out on either side like bones on a fish skeleton that were only about 6 feet wide. Again, we stayed in a Soba in Korčula, this time off of one of those side streets.

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Split

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This place is amazing! Abby and I arrived here on Saturday morning after a five hour ride on a tilting train along a twisty railroad line from the capital. This got us in around noon, when we promptly walked to the tourist agency and booked a soba for the night. In Croatia, it is very common for people to rent out rooms in their own homes, and these rooms are a far better deal than the expensive hotels. In our case, we got a room in a couple’s apartment about two blocks from the old town. The couple had three rooms for rent, each with a bed, clean sheets, and a locking door. The two toilets in the apartment were shared. We have to admit – the idea of staying in a private home sounded a little strange to us too, but it worked out very well, and was not any more expensive than our hostel back in Vienna.

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Now more about Split… Split is Croatia’s second largest city, with much of its old town built within the ruins of a Roman palace which once belonged to Emperor Diocletian. Inside are winding narrow streets, archways, and old columns. Many of these marble-floored streets are only about 6 feet wide, lined with shops connecting cafe-filled squares. In front of the palace, along the waterfront, is a wide promenade where everyone seems to stroll after dinner. Saturday night was a special night in Split, since there was some sort of a public festival with a bunch of live music. Three different stages were set up in the old town, with bands playing Croatian rock, folk tunes, and some international (American) music. We saw families wandering the narrow streets of the old town after dark eating gelato and enjoying the scene. It was almost a Disney-like atmosphere – except that nobody appeared to be making any money off the whole thing. It was simply good fun for all involved.

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This morning, we boarded a ferry destined for Korčula, a Croatian island in the Adriatic between Split and Dubrovnik. Once we walked into the metal hull of the ship and handed over our tickets, we ascended an escalator into what at first appeared to be fancy restaurant. This turned out to be the passenger deck of the nicest ferry that either of us has ever seen. Amazing!

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Go to Croatia. Now.

The Zenith of Zagreb Zeal

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We left our cozy Budapest apartment at 5 am on Friday in order to catch a 6 am train to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. After a somewhat cramped six hour train ride across Hungary, much of it along scenic Lake Balaton, we arrived in Zagreb without any certainty about what we would do with the rest of our day. We put our bags in storage at the train station, walked to the city center, and went to Nokturno for lunch, a pizza and pasta joint on Tkalčićeva – one of Zagreb’s main cafe streets. Here we decided that we were too tired to try to go to Plitvice Lakes National Park, and that it would be better to stay in Zagreb for the night and relax a little. We rented an apartment in a communist-era building about half a mile from the train station, and bought morning tickets to Split for the next day.

Zagreb is a wonderfully chill town, lined with baroque buildings, green parks, and rows of outdoor cafes. It was a great break from the big-city bustle of Copenhagen, Vienna, and Budapest. Here we relaxed, saw a couple interesting sights (such as the tiled Church of St. Mark), and read up a little more on the region’s history, as well as what we had in store for us on the Adriatic coast. We ended the day with a pizza picnic in one of the parks, then went to bed early to get some rest before our 7 am train to Split the next morning.

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